Starting a new job in the dairy industry 

Dairy farming offers everyone, regardless of financial position or educational background, the opportunity to start from very little and work your way up. With the right attitude, the opportunities in dairying can be endless.

Once you have some practical farming experience, you can use your skills to develop and/or broaden a career pathway in the industry. Dairy farming provides experience and training that can contribute to making you a highly employable person. It’s a global industry so there are many opportunities to travel.

Starting a new job

As a new employee, you will have a lot to learn about the farm and the people you work with. Different farmers do things differently and they may want you to work their way, rather than how you have done it before.

Your introduction to the farm is likely to take place over a couple of weeks as you are gradually shown how things work. This is an ideal opportunity for you to ask questions about anything to ensure you understand.

Not all farm activities happen all year round. You may only be shown or trained in some activities when it is the right time of year, e.g. silage and hay-making season.

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No employee can walk into a new job and know everything on the first day. That only comes through understanding how the farm systems work. Induction training (or orientation) is designed to provide you with the information you need to understand how the farm works. Staff induction is also about workplace policies such as safety, security, anti-discrimination, etc.

During your introduction, you or your employer may identify areas where you need some training – this can be the start of your training plan.

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What will I be paid?

Every employee should be given a classification (usually based the Pastoral Award 2010) which accurately reflects their skills, experience and the work to be performed. As a minimum, there are 5 dairy employee classifications in the Pastoral Award 2010.

Under the Pastoral Award 2010 ‘ordinary hours’ are 152 hours worked over a 4 week period, regardless of whether they fall on a weekend. Ordinary hours for casuals are the same as for full-time employees. Once you have worked your ordinary hours, you are entitled to overtime pay. You will need to record your hours of work for your employer.

For full-time employees, it is sometimes more straightforward for your employer to work out a package that includes a flat rate of pay taking into account overtime and penalty rates. As this is a variation to the award, you must both agree to the pay rate as part of an Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA). These agreements must show that you are better off overall compared with the award.

There  are  minimum  hours  of  work  for  all  part-time  and  casual  employees. For  part-time employees,  the  award  specifies  that the employer must roster the employee for a minimum of 3 hours on any shift or  hours for full time secondary school students who are 18 years or under. For  casual  employees, the award specifies that on each occasion the casual employee attends for work  they  are  entitled  to  a  minimum  payment of  3 hours work or 2 hours for full time secondary school students who are 18 years or under. A casual employee must be paid at the hourly rate plus 25%.

By law, you must get a pay slip with the details of your pay and tax within a day of being paid.

Visit our pay rates section for rates and types of pay, plus employee classifications and the Fair Work site which has lots of useful tools.

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The Code of Conduct (behavioural standards)

Many farm businesses now have a code of conduct which sets out the ethical principles and professional standards expected by employers for creating good working environments. The code of conduct informs you of what is reasonable and/or expected behaviour in the farm business.

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Performance appraisals

Getting on the job feedback on how you are going is really important. You need to spend time with your employer and find out what you are doing well and what areas you could improve on.

This will help you to build a positive relationship, allowing you to understand and have clear expectations of each other. Ask your employer how often they usually sit down to discuss performance on the job. Visit our performance appraisals section for more information.

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Rights and responsibilities

In Australia, employees are entitled to minimum standards (the National Employment Standards which are part of the Fair Work Act 2009), including things like annual leave, correct pay rates for their classification, superannuation and overtime. Most dairy industry employees are also covered by the Pastoral Award 2010

What is the Pastoral Award 2010?

An award is a legal document that sets out minimum wages and conditions for an industry or occupation. Awards cover things like rates of pay, overtime, penalty rates and allowances. The conditions in awards apply on top of the minimum conditions in the National Employment Standards. Employees in the dairy industry are covered by the Pastoral Award 2010.

Every employee in Australia also has responsibilities. For example, as an employee:
  • You have an obligation to act safely and take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety.
  • You must comply with all legal instructions from your employer.
  • You must be provided with a copy of the National Employment Standards
  • You should read the Pastoral Award 2010

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Minimum conditions – National Employment Standards

The National Employment Standards (also known as the NES) are a safety net of 10 minimum conditions, set out by law, for all employees. For more information, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website

Good reads:
  • Fair Work Ombudsman Best Practice Guide: A guide for young workers. Download your copy here.
  • Fair Work Information Statement and National Employment Standards. Download your copy here.

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Dealing with conflict

Whenever you work with other people there is the possibility of conflict, which can be hard to resolve because emotion is often involved. Conflict hardly ever just goes away of its own accord. Normally you have to sit down and deal with it. Doing this calmly and professionally is more likely to bring about a positive result.

Tips for dealing with conflict:

  • Talk about the conflict and how to resolve it, either with the person concerned or with your employer or manager. 
  • Tell the other person how it makes you feel
  • Work on finding solutions or a compromise
  • If necessary, agree to disagree
  • Try not to take work disagreements home, especially if you are working and living in shared accommodation
  • Don’t let conflict ‘fester’ or it could ruin your relationship with the other person
  • Don’t leave it too long to talk about it, as it will just get harder to resolve
  • Don’t be afraid to seek outside advice, e.g. from a mentor.

Remember, people don’t always know how their behaviour is affecting you, so talk about it with them. Also, if something you are doing or saying is irritating others, don’t ‘explode’ if they come to talk with you about it.

Dealing with conflict is often a trade-off between what we want and the relationship we have with the other person. Get help to resolve problems before they get too big to tackle. Visit the dispute resolution section for more information.

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